Sustainability is not just for Christmas

Eco-friendly cocktails and garnishes can prove especially useful during the festive season

Dried fruit is among the options available to licensees looking to stock sustainable garnishes.
Dried fruit is among the options available to licensees looking to stock sustainable garnishes

SUSTAINABILITY has arguably become one of the watchwords of 2018, with businesses and consumers alike increasingly looking to lessen their environmental footprint.

Documentaries like Blue Planet II are said to have helped highlight the impact of pollution, with many crediting David Attenborough’s nature series with raising awareness of the impact of single-use plastics on marine life – and subsequently aiding the campaign to eradicate the use of plastic straws.

However, like a lot of trends, the on-trade was ahead of the curve, with several operators having offered plastic alternatives for some time.

This forward thinking extends to cocktails too, with bartenders across the country employing more environmentally-friendly processes that not only benefit the planet, but profits too.

And at Christmas, when it can be difficult to predict the number of customers likely to come through the door, having a plentiful supply of sustainable mixes and garnishes which boast a longer shelf life can prove especially useful, according to bartenders and operators consulted by SLTN.

The excitement for bartenders is it’s something creative that may be the future of the industry.

Milo Smith of Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen in Aberdeen said: “Having garnishes that have a much longer shelf life is really beneficial this time of year; you can store them in a jar, keep them behind the bar.”

Talking about the move towards a circular system – where resources are used for as long as possible and waste is minimised – Milo explained that Ninety-Nine practices this “as much as we can”.

“Using the ends of the fruit peels that we would normally discard and turning them into syrups and cordials, things like that,” he said.

“We use quite a lot of fresh berries – if they begin to decompose a wee bit, when they go mushy and you can’t really use them as a garnish – we freeze them until we’ve got a big batch then we turn those into jam.

“So our kitchen uses them, and we use the jam for cocktails.

“We do the same with our citrus, we make marmalade out of them; we use more marmalade at Christmas.

“We’re trying to do as many things as possible. It’s difficult, but it’s not just about being conscientious about the environment, it’s also about being conscientious about cost; everything is on the rise.

Martin Luney, managing director of Big Red Teapot (BRT), which counts Edinburgh venues The Voyage of Buck and Treacle within its portfolio, told SLTN that sustainability “is a valid life choice for everyone in 2018”.

Martin explained that various sustainable methods are used in the creation of cocktails across Big Red Teapot’s venues – especially at Christmas.

Examples include citrus stock made from lemon and lime husks left over from juicing, cold brew from recycled coffee soil, and an orgeat syrup made from the discarded pistachio shells across the bars.

Some of the group’s bars also feature a ‘think while you drink’ cocktail menu, which showcases all of the aforementioned techniques in original cocktail serves.

Other eco-friendly moves include foregoing garnishes in place of vintage glassware, wooden cups, metal cups or repurposed vessels, as well as utilising edible garnishes.

The move towards more sustainable garnishes has been recognised by drinks firms too. The firm behind puree and mixer brand Funkin Cocktails, for instance, recently launched its first ever range of premium dried fruit garnishes. Ben Anderson of Funkin said the dried garnishes – orange, lemon, strawberry and citrus – will allow operators “to save costs and reduce their impact on the environment”.

Ultimately, Martin of BRT reckons sustainable cocktails and garnishes signal a trend which is here to stay.

“There are obvious financial and energy savings, the waste reduction and the moral use of recycled and biodegradable productions, but the added excitement for bartenders is about doing something creative, something original and something that may signal the future of the industry,” he said.